Sacred Shanghai by photographer and anthropologist Liz Hingley, explores the spaces, rituals and communities that weave together the spiritual fabric of China’s largest and most cosmopolitan city.
After decades of suppression during the Mao era, China has been undergoing one of the great religious revivals of our time. Unsettled by the pace of development and globalisation, millions are turning to faith for meaning and hope in the alienating megacities that now dominate Chinese life.
With around 26 million inhabitants, the megalopolis is home to a multitude of religions from Buddhism and Islam, to Christianity and Baha'ism, to Hinduism and Daoism and many other alternative faiths, which are constantly growing and evolving.
In the book's introduction, Ian Johnson, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and specialist in Chinese religion, adds: "Freed from being defined by where they were born, China’s urbanites have created new identities, discovering for themselves what they truly believe with the aid of new technologies, social media and convergence of faiths and cultures.
"Some of this religious life takes place in skyscrapers and apartment blocks, but also in the pockets of the past that still dot Shanghai: a traditional New Year’s dinner, the persistence of burning paper houses, cars, and money for the dead, or a rambunctious music group announcing a wedding, birth, or funeral. Faith in China may be vulnerable, yet its unwavering importance is beyond doubt. Its very presence in people’s hearts makes it impossible to eradicate. More than economics or politics, it is these moments that are the new heart of China."
Shanghai Sacred is currently on display at the Victoria Art Gallery and Museum at the University of Liverpool until 25 September. It is also featured in a new book, Shanghai Sacred, published by GOST Books this October. Priced at £25, you can pre-order a copy here.